Electronic Monitoring in Scotland Working Group Report

Report and recommendations on electronic monitoring produced by the expert working group.

A New Strategy for Electronic Monitoring in Scotland

The Strategy is informed by seven elements:

  • Inter-agency reflection on the needs and values which should inform a Scottish approach to future EM use within the Working Group itself
  • A review of international research evidence on EM's effectiveness commissioned by the Scottish Government
  • The findings of EU-funded comparative research on "Creativity and Effectiveness in EM" in five countries, including Scotland
  • The Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland
  • The Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec 14(4) - a human rights-informed understanding of standards and ethics in EM
  • The Scottish Government vision in which prison, and in particular short-term sentences, is used less frequently, with a stronger emphasis on robust community sentences focused on actively addressing the underlying causes of offending behaviour leading to the prevention and reduction of further offending
  • Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 and "Equally Safe", the Scottish Government's strategy on violence against women and girls

The Working Group wishes to see a more extensive, more consistent and more strategic use of EM in Scotland. It does not see EM as more important than the existing array of community interventions, but it does believe that a better and more integrated use of EM across the criminal justice system could enhance those interventions. It does not seek to make EM into the dominant community intervention but it does wish to see it become more central, and more commonplace, in the practice of criminal justice social workers and sentencers. Discretion to use it, within frameworks established and promoted by the Scottish Government, will rest with them. The Working Group is clear, however, that in future there should be much less geographical variation in the use of EM than exists at present, whilst recognising that such variation is not unique to EM, and has complex causes in local criminal justice cultures.

The more strategic use of EM envisaged by the Working Group has three aspects.

1. To use EM in more integrated ways, alongside a range of supportive measures, to help prevent and reduce further reoffending and promote desistance among people with convictions

2. To enhance the protection and security of victims of crime in ways that other community interventions are unable to do

3. By offering a greater degree of control in the community, to make the use of electronic monitoring more appealing to sentencers as an alternative to custody, in particular short-term sentences and remand.

In different contexts, these elements may be pursued separately or in conjunction with each other. For example, the Working Group recognises that even standalone RF EM can prompt thoughts of desistance while a person is being monitored, perhaps encouraged by concerned family members, without necessarily equipping them with the human or social capital to pursue it ( [2] Hucklesby 2009). A belief that EM has been helpful in that respect is reflected in the exit questionnaires administered by G4S when orders are completed. It seems sensible, if EM alone can stimulate desistance thinking, for social workers or third sector workers to offer support that enables a monitored person's hopes and intentions to be translated into practice. Swedish research, which examined the effects of early release from prison, showed emphatically that a combination of RF EM and intensive supervision could yield very impressive reductions in reoffending over a three year follow-up period ( [3] Marklund and Holmberg 2009).

In a Parole and MAPPA context, on the other hand, while the encouragement of desistance is not absent, considerations of public protection and victim interests may rightly over-ride all others, because of the high risk posed by the people being monitored. In the context of PASS all three elements may come together: sentencers will understandably require community alternatives to short custodial sentences to reduce reoffending and promote desistance, as well as offering forms of control (restrictions on movement) over individuals that other community interventions cannot achieve, even if they cannot entirely replicate the degree of control imposed by imprisonment itself. It is clear from responses to the PASS consultation that many victims' groups are not convinced that any community intervention will offer them the kind of respite from crime that even a short prison sentence accomplishes. It may be, however, that that very understandable anxiety is due to familiarity only with the community interventions that are available now, and unfamiliarity with the kinds of control that new EM technologies (not just RF) make available. There is an urgent need for further consultation with the full range of crime victim interest groups to ensure that the diverse ways in which EM can be used have legitimacy with them.

Preventing and reducing further offending reduces the number of people who become victims of crime. It is important to recognise that crime can negatively impact on a single person, a family, business or an entire community. Protecting the public and victims and maintaining public safety is a critical consideration of community justice and the approach must be even handed in its focus on the needs, rights and interests of both victims of crime and people with a history of offending (who may not of course be separate categories). Victims of crime do need to feel that measures taken to control and rehabilitate individuals have legitimacy in their eyes. Reducing the number of victims will be achieved through effective, evidence based policy and we need to understand how EM can play a better part in what works to support individuals and protect victims, recognising that not all victims of crime have the same needs and anxieties.

As noted previously, EM must now be thought of in the plural, as a range of technologies rather than a single technology, as it is now, with only radio frequency monitoring available. All of the monitoring technologies can be used to regulate a person's location and movement and to influence their behaviour, and at different points in the criminal justice system - pre-trial, sentence and post-release. They can be used as standalone measures and/or as part of a wider package of interventions to aid desistance and/or to support public protection. They enable individuals to remain in the community, maintaining family ties where that is appropriate, to access employment and other community services and to reintegrate gradually after a custodial sentence. They offer a degree of regulation and control that cannot be achieved by other forms of community disposals, and - in some forms - could be used to offer greater protection to victims and to create more viable alternatives to custodial sentences.

The three technologies which may be used to create a new strategy for EM in Scotland are radio frequency monitoring, GPS monitoring and trans-dermal alcohol monitoring. Each technology creates opportunities to regulate the location and movement of an individual and influence their behaviour according to the intended goals of the sentence or the supervision process. This is what is meant by a goal-oriented approach to EM. Those recommending EM should consider, for example, whether home confinement would be useful or whether a series of exclusion zones to protect a victim or to break links with certain influences is required.

Wearing an ankle bracelet alone cannot be relied upon to change the attitudes of the monitored person in the longer term. To aid desistance monitored persons may need to be supported to understand how the regulation of their schedules and locations can become a constructive experience - helping with self-discipline, helping to sustain avoidance of criminal opportunities or criminogenic places. If punishment is the sole intention of monitoring then compliance with specified requirements - obedience - is arguably all that matters. If desistance and rehabilitation are the over-riding purpose, monitored individuals should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour and embrace the opportunities that EM and other interventions gives them to change their behaviour, or to demonstrate that their behaviour is changing.

Compliance with requirements remains important, even where desistance is the supervisory intention, but not as a punitive end in itself, and where non-compliance occurs it should be judged proportionately and contextually to the nature of the violation and the original offence committed.

Similarly, again, the seriousness of the offence or the risk posed by an individual should not predicate the type of technology used. The intensity, duration and combination (or not) with other interventions should determine the level of EM-imposed. The use of EM as a sentence, part of a sentence, or licence condition or bail is a legitimate consideration across all offence types - low intensity, short duration uses of EM are legitimate and should be considered.

A goal-oriented approach to EM can encompass both punitive and rehabilitative goals. Both can be individually tailored to the needs, risk and circumstances of the individual, but only rehabilitative approaches, oriented towards desistance, can, strictly speaking, be considered person-centred. Making EM more person-centred is an important part of our new vision to better integrate EM with other community justice interventions: it needs to be seen as something that actively helps the individual with desistance rather than something that only punishes them. This will require community justice partners to learn new ways of speaking about EM to individuals, so that they come to appreciate the opportunities it affords them. These include ensuring that people attend pro-social activities, or reducing daily curfew hours as a means of incentivising good behaviour. Such an approach arguably requires a more flexible and sensitive approach to violations and non-compliance than is achieved by a purely punitive approach, or indeed may be being applied to those looking to aid reintegration

Securing the confidence of the judiciary, Social Work Scotland, Scottish Prison Service ( SPS), the Parole Board for Scotland, Police Scotland and general public in electronic monitoring as a robust and effective technology will be crucial to increasing its use in a flexible and effective way. Developing and implementing a communications plan which clearly sets out the versatility of the technology and the benefits this affords will continue to be a strong focus as we move forward.

Our vision is for electronic monitoring to make a significant contribution to the Scottish Government's goal to reduce the number of individuals sentenced to prison, to increase the number of people serving their sentences in the community and to further prevent and reduce offending.

  • That electronic monitoring is seen as a robust and effective community sentence by the general public, sentencers, victims of crime, Community Justice Partners and other stakeholders
  • That electronic monitoring is more frequently used as part of a goal-oriented approach and, where appropriate, as part of a person centred approach within a much wider package of support and control

This vision drives the recommendations in this report.


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